My most enduring memory of my daughter’s fourth birthday is of a barefoot, blond-haired, little girl, resplendent in the prettiest of party dresses.
The layers of pink chiffon are dancing in the breeze over her bare feet planted firmly in the ground. Her head is thrown back in sheer joy, and a kite string is clasped in her hand.
You cannot see the kite in the picture, but you know from the delicate string clenched in her hand, that the kite is out there – somewhere.
What makes this memory more poignant is this little girl is not my daughter at all.
She is the daughter of a friend and she is moving away.
Loss. On that day in April she was firmly planted, not only in my front yard with her kite, but in our hearts and proximity. A friend to our daughter just as her mother is a friend to me.
The moving away would be a necessary process of modern life and careers and relocations that come up suddenly and cannot be turned down.
All part and parcel of friendships that evolve from kitchen table conversations and almost daily contact, to casual e-mails and monthly telephone calls when the rates are low.
When a friend moves on, we fear being destined, perhaps, to become just one of many recipients on a holiday card mailing list.
The evolution from friendships-taken-for-granted to friendships-that-last-a-lifetime is so difficult to predict.
Friendships. It was a bad spring for friendships around our house.
In the space of 24 hours, we learned that our two dearest friends and their respective families would each move far away by summer’s end.
Mulling this over, melancholy despite the party atmosphere, and being surrounded by the forced cheer of balloons and kites, it occurred to me that friendships are a bit like balloons – and kites – in their way.
Balloons are bright and pretty and light and fun. But they deflate from inattention, or drift away if you don’t maintain the firmest of grasps or tie them down completely.
Worse, they all come to an end too soon, and sometimes, startlingly, with a bang.
Without constant care and tending, most balloons – and too many friendships – simply drift away on the winds of inattention.
Kites, on the other hand, are infinitely more satisfying.
They take a little more time to really get off the ground – just like any true, from-the-heart friendship generally does.
Yet, once aloft they can cheer you with their very presence – making even a cloudy, windswept day (or moment in time) something special.
Better yet, the very design of a good kite – and any enduring friendship – demands that you allow them to fly free. To exist, they must be given free reign to sail away, and return; to wander to and fro; to ebb and to flow.
Kites, once aloft, don’t need nearly the tending of their high maintenance balloon brethren, and you always hold some part of them – the string – with you, even when the kite is out of sight.
Balloons. This is not to say that balloon friendships don’t serve a purpose, in their own time.
Like party favors, they provide color, and perhaps brighten the surroundings when needed, but like party décor, the day after the party, they fade.
Having been there for a short while, enjoyed, and then allowed to wither slowly, drift away, or in some sad cases, outright explode, balloon friendships are briefly enjoyable interludes in life.
Kites. Kite friendships, on the other hand, are the enduring ones.
Entwined in your life is the essence of the kite – the string that ties it all together – still holding it to you, even as the kite itself is winging further off.
You can’t always see it but you feel it always out there. Somewhere.
More importantly, you always know you could pull it in if needed.
So what did I learn from all this?
That true friends may soar away, but like anything with strings attached, they are never truly gone from you. True friendships, like good kites, are never really more than a tug of the hand – or the heartstrings – away.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt knows that S., J., and D. know this one is for them – and for anyone blessed with kite-string friends. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)